We’ve got to get back to the garden.

It’s no big news flash that the food we’re eating is killing us. Between genetically modified foods, pesticides, suspect school lunches, and highly processed foods packed with sodium, preservatives and creepy color additives, it’s a gauntlet of bad choices. But the truth of the matter is, the more you can eat straight out of a garden (yours or some farmer’s near you), the healthier you’re going to be.

Which is why the Rockland Farm Alliance is such a fertile idea, ripe with possibilities for replication. A bedroom community of New York, Rockland was once a flourishing agricultural community with over 900 active farms that provided tons of fresh food for the big city next door. Today, Rockland has just 9 farms, 7 of them on less than two acres, and folks get their food from big grocery chains, swathed in plastic, like everybody else.

Moving earth (and heaven) for the garden.

But RFA is aiming to change that, with a town and county-supported lease of 5 acres of Open Space Land that the Alliance is turning into the Cropsey Community Farm, a working farm with an education area for teaching kids where food actually comes from, and an area dedicated to producing specialty crops (i.e. not Doritos) for schools. A model of Community Supported Agriculture, the farm is funded by member families who commit to getting a once-weekly box of organic produce. And who are willing to shovel a little compost when necessary, too.

Volunteers work on bringing back the 300-year old Cropsey Barn!

It’s an all-volunteer effort (except for one paid head gardener at Cropsey) but these folks are on fire to get their hands dirty. They’ve resuscitated the Agriculture Board, are lobbying for more active farmland, have renovated an ancient barn, built hoop houses and greenhouses, and look at every piece of fallow land (corporate headquarters, hospital grounds, parks, county open space) as a potential garden. Ultimately the vision is that each town in Rockland will have its own community run farm, where kids will help work the land, carrots will grow fat and long, and people will have local access to healthy, nutrient-rich food they helped raise with their own hands (or their own dollars).

American Organic

Tamika Adjemian is volunteer coordinator for the program, and if I could cross her with Sustainable Pattie here in Atlanta, (post on 4/28) they could probably feed half the country. Tamika’s rounding up Americorps volunteers, Girl Scouts of the Hudson, the Rockland YMCA, schoolkids, retirees, and young farmer interns to plow, plant, harvest and build – and make Community Supported Agriculture a reality. Upstate farmers are calling the Alliance “trailblazing,” and the hope is to re-produce the idea across the state – and beyond.

I love gardening, I love community projects, and I LOVE fresh produce, so this one’s a no-brainer for me. My $100 is going to Rockland Farm Alliance to build good fences (that make good farming neighbors) – and to help organically grow food that feeds our hearts and bodies. You dig? If so, click here to donate!